There are eight bottles of gin alone on Ian Tuck’s “speed rail.” Below, he has a matching number of rums and whiskeys and, on the very bottom shelf, the odds and ends – pisco, Aperol and maraschino liqueur. But this doesn’t even begin to convey the extent of this 45-year-old software company owner’s liquor collection.
There are some 230 bottles on the surrounding custom-built glass shelves, not including a cache of 60 single malts. Tuck’s recently constructed home bar also has a freezer stocked with special ice, a couple of shelves devoted to glassware, a range of bitters and a “Kegerator” carbonation system for making his own soda water and for carbonating cocktails. Tuck knows just about every cocktail bartender in the city of Toronto and has recently launched his own boutique spirits company, Bon Vivant Spirits Agents, to bring in coveted, yet unavailable in Canada ingredients. The Globe caught up with the cocktail connoisseur at his downtown Toronto apartment.
Five or six years ago I was at Apothéke bar in New York and there was this bartender who just really took the time to talk us through what he was doing, and he made it seem just like another great extension of cooking. I love to cook and I realized it was like cooking, but with a whole new set of ingredients.
What techniques make it like cooking?
I’ve been working a lot on making clear ice, which I make with a slow-freeze technique I learned from a blog called Alcademics. The cloudy bits are trapped in the bottom of the block and I can take the clear part and, since it’s a crystalline structure, I can pretty easily cut it into smaller blocks.
Did you always fantasize about having a bar like this?
No, I used to be a wine geek, actually. But I now have this huge liquor collection since, whenever I travel abroad, I’ll bring back two or three bottles. For a while, it was sitting on the floor all over my house, which made it really hard to make a drink. So at least now I kind of have some organization to it. But the craziest thing is that I never drink alone, so I never drink at home unless there are people there. So I’ve got all these spirits and, unless somebody’s coming over, I’ll never have any.
What are you most fastidious about?
By far, it would be juice, fresh-squeezed juice. That would be the one thing I won’t compromise on.
Do you have a fancy juicer?
I just bought a commercial juicer and, my god, does it ever work awesome. But normally I’d just use a hand juicer. A lot of the stuff that I buy that’s over the top is more just in the service of the fact that I’m having parties with 40 or 50 people.
What’s your favourite piece of equipment?
My carbonator, for sure. I mean, I use it every day just for soda water. I had read a post about carbonated cocktails on JeffreyMorgenthaler.com and it dovetailed with this article in Popular Science about making your own carbonator. And so, when I have people over, I give them carbonated Negronis in individual little bottles, which is kind of fun.